“While I do have a lot of empathy for environmental matters, I do need to balance different interests of different stakeholders, as long as they have lawful legitimation for what they do.”
The company was the focus of demonstrations in several German cities on Friday organised by the German branch of the Fridays for Future environmental youth movement. Nearly 60,000 people signed a petition calling for the firm to walk away from Adani and climate activist Greta Thunberg had also called for Kaeser to “make the right decision”.
But Kaeser said other competitors would happily supply the equipment, meaning a decision by Siemens to pull out would not have stopped the mine project from going ahead.
He added that Siemens had secured the right to pull out of the contract should Adani violate its “very stringent environmental obligations”.
“Keeping our promises is Siemens’ highest priority. Only being a credible partner whose word counts also ensures that we can remain an effective partner for a greener future,” he said.
“In this case, there is a legally binding and enforceable fiduciary responsibility to carry out this train signaling contract. Had it been my own company, I may have acted differently, although there is factual clarity that the installation of our signaling system – and thereby making the already existing rail track safer – does not impact whether the coal mine will happen or not.”
Kaeser cited a letter from Resources Minister Matt Canavan – a strong proponent of the Carmichael mine – which claimed the “Australian people clearly voted to support Adani at the federal election in May 2019, especially in regional Queensland”.
“It would be an insult to the working people of Australia and the growing needs of India to bow to the pressure of anti-Adani protestors,” Canavan wrote.
Siemens in November announced a 1.32 billion euro ($2.1 billion) profit for the fourth quarter, off a revenue of 24.52 billion euros.
Galilee Blockade spokesperson Ben Pennings attacked Siemens and said the firm had “trashed their billion-dollar reputation for a $30 million contract”.
“Their reckless indifference to the suffering of Australians will be judged harshly, now and in the history books,” he said, speaking on behalf of the group which aims to prevent coal and gas extraction in the Galilee Basin.
“Siemens’ expertise is vital to the Adani coal railway and there is too much at stake to give up. Citizens will escalate their protests until Siemens listen to the science and choose the right side of history.”
Kaeser said he had huge sympathy for the victims of the Australian bushfire emergency but said there was no evidence to link that disaster with the Adani mine.
“Even though we do not have clear evidence that the wildfires and this project are directly connected, I feel empathy for all those, who spoke up and warned about worsening conditions,” he said.
He ordered Siemen’s Australian arm to come up with a proposal on how the company can help rebuild destroyed infrastructure in coastal and regional communities.
Bevan Shields is the Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.